Houston Researchers Are Working To Keep Residents Safe From Kissing Bug Pests That Invade Homes And Transmit Disease To Humans
Kissing bugs are a group of true bugs in the Reduviidae family of the Hemiptera order of insects. Insects in the Reduviidae family are commonly referred to as assassin bugs due to their strong predatory behaviors toward other insects. Because of this, assassin bugs are often appreciated by gardeners because they prey upon insect pests that damage cultivated plants. However, kissing bugs are considered medically significant pests of humans, pets and other animals, as they transmit a parasitic disease known as chagas disease. If that is not bad enough, kissing bugs are common pests of homes, which is where most people contract chagas disease from the pests. Kissing bugs are responsible for hundreds of thousands of new chagas disease cases annually, and while they have historically been most problematic in South America, recent evidence suggests that infected kissing bugs now pose a significant threat to people in the southern half of the United States, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
There are 11 kissing bug species found across the southern half of the United States, seven of which inhabit all areas of Texas. Although the kissing bug species that spread chagas in South America can also be found in the US, chagas disease cases have been quite low in the country since the first US case was recorded in Corpus Christi back in 1955. While the reason for this disparity is not known, what is known is that disease-carrying kissing bugs are now abundant in the southern states. Since 2012, researchers in Houston have determined that 50 to 64 percent of all kissing bugs within a given US population carry the parasite that causes chagas disease. Houston public health officials are warning residents about the insect threat, and they are posting information that allows residents to identify kissing bug species. Kissing bugs are similar in appearance to boxelder bugs, and they can be recognized for their ovoid .5 to 1 inch long bodies that feature border markings on their back wings.
Have you ever encountered one or more kissing bugs in your home?